Better With Bulghur

Before commercial grinders existed, women spent days threshing, pounding and grinding grains to prepare them for cooking. Today's processed foods have reduced to minutes the time it takes to prepare a whole-grain dish. If you find you're relying on just a few standbys, like rice and pasta, it's time to expand your repertoire. A box of bulghur provides a whole-wheat dish in a flash – plus excellent sources of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and other substances that help fight cancer and other chronic diseases.

A nutty-flavored grain, bulghur has been a staple of Middle Eastern cooking for centuries and is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Bulghur can be used in place of rice in any pilaf, stuffed pepper, or casserole dish. You can also toss this versatile grain into salads, soups and stir-fries, and serve it with any meal or snack.

Made from whole-wheat kernels that have been steamed, dried and crushed, bulghur can be found in most markets alongside the pasta and rice products, or perhaps in a specialty food section. Some bulghur products contain other ingredients as well, which helps create interesting dishes.

If you plan to make a bulghur salad, follow the directions for steaming the grain in boiling water. During the 20 to 30 minutes it is steaming, the rest of the meal can be prepared. If you plan to use bulghur in a casserole, follow the directions for cooking. With either treatment, fluff the cooked grains with a fork to lighten the texture.

Bulghur works well at any meal of the day. Start your day off with hot bulghur cereal mixed with some fresh fruit, skim milk and a touch of sugar or honey. Treat yourself to a tabouli salad and experience the flavorful aromas and tastes of traditional Middle Eastern fare. Top a steaming mound of bulghur with chili or your favorite stir-fry.

Warm Bulghur Salad - Makes 2 servings.

1/2 cup bulghur wheat
1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, cilantro, or flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 skinless cooked chicken breast (6 oz.), cut into thin strips

In medium saucepan, cook bulghur according to package directions.

Meanwhile, microwave broccoli florets in bowl with small amount of water until just barely tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Carefully transfer broccoli to sieve or colander and let drain.

In small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil.

In large bowl, place cooked hot bulghur. Lightly toss with fork to separate kernels. With fork, mix in parsley, onion and mint (or other fresh herb). While tossing mixture lightly with fork, drizzle in juice-oil mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide salad between two plates. Top each with half the chicken.

Per serving: 274 calories, 9 g. fat (1.5 g. saturated fat), 31 g. carbohydrate, 19 g. protein, 8 g. dietary fiber, 57 mg. sodium.

The Author:

AICR offers a Nutrition Hotline (1-800-843-8114). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday, this free service allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. The Institute provides a wide range of education programs that help millions of Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. The Institute has provided more than $57 million in funding for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR's Web address is www.aicr.org.

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